Music - Teachers' Picks - Ben

Category: Music / Last Updated: Tue Nov 5 '19 / Written By: Ben

We each have our own music that we like to dance to, for many different reasons.  In this series of blog articles, I asked each of the team to put together a selection of songs they love to dance to, and tell me a little bit about why they chose them.  This time it's my turn!

Now, I'm not a dance teacher, but I do have 15 years' experience in social dancing and performing.  Finding great music to dance to is a bit of an obsession of mine; I trawl Spotify, Google Play, and random discussion boards for new music.  I've even been known to hit Amrap's AirIt to find new dance tracks.

I seek out more modern styles of songs (non-traditional), songs where you can dance multiple styles within the one track, and even ones that change style and tempo.  I am drawn to songs which let you play, be musical, and which almost force you onto the dance floor.  

I have a dance style playlist for every style I dance, and all up they have over 1300 songs in them; a number that grows almost every day!  So here's the result of paring that down, and explaining myself... I got to 130-odd  songs. There are so many great tracks which I have not included, so many!  I'm bad at favourites.

Ben

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(Mish & Kris chose this picture, Kris also wanted the Snowflake Suit!)

Strap yourselves in to be entertained!

 

Rumba

This section is all pretty clean Rumba songs.  I think I tend towards slower rumbas because I love getting into the technique of it (a bit of a theme), and when a song is slow there's no way to 'fudge' through your technique and get away with it!

No Scrubs by TLC was my first ever rumba, back in year 10 at high school!

Quite a few of these songs have been favourites of mine for many years, and then some are more recent winners that I've only recently discovered like Put Your Records On, New Soul, and All Good Things (Come To An End).

  • #Beautiful-  Mariah Carey, Miguel
  • All Good Things (Come To An End) - Nelly Furtado
  • California King Bed - Rihanna
  • Fantasy - Mariah Carey
  • Galaxy - Jessica Mauboy, Stan Walker
  • High - Lighthouse Family
  • Let Her Cry - Hootie & The Blowfish
  • Like A River - Kasey Chambers
  • Marvin Gaye - Charlie Puth, Meghan Trainor
  • New Soul - Yael Naim
  • No Scrubs - TLC
  • Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Raw
  • Send Me On My Way - Rusted Root
  • (Sittin' On) the Dock of the Bag - Otis Redding
  • Stand by Me - Ben E. King
  • Uptown Girl - Billy Joel
  • Wasn't Expecting That - Jamie Lawson

 

Rumba / Cha Cha

There are a bunch of songs here that I like as both a Rumba and a Cha Cha, or both!  It might be that the Rumba is a bit faster, or the Cha Cha is slower and cruisier.  At the moment I'm reasonably focused on Put the Needle on ItShotgun was the studio anthem for 2018, we played it every chance we could, and I never got sick of it!

  • Amazing - George Michael
  • FourFiveSeconds - Rihanna, Kanye West
  • Nervous - Shawn Mendes
  • Put the Needle on It - Dannii Minogue
  • Shotgun - George Ezra

 

Cha Cha

Okay! So now for some straight-up cha cha.  I love cha cha; the syncopation, the spins, the snap, and the ability to travel across the floor if you're keen to do that! 

I will wanna call out Abracadabra; it's super daggy, and features in a movie I really love The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and is a great song to cha cha to.

  • Abracadabra - Steve Miller Band
  • Acceptable in the 80's - Calvin Harris
  • Cake By The Ocean - DNCE
  • Don't Stop The Music - Rihanna
  • Prayer in C - Lilly Wood and The Prick
  • Sweet Like Cola - Lou Bega (check out Anne's routine here)
  • When I Grow Up - The Pussycat Dolls

 

Cha Cha / Bachata

Here's an interesting combo, which blends really nicely but you might not have thought about it before; cha cha and bachata!  Beggin' is a great track and you can have a lot of fun playing with it, but Don't Be so Shy is a song which I first heard a few years ago and I just love it!

  • Beggin’ - Madcon (which is also fine to rumba to)
  • Don't Be so Shy (remix) - Urban Sound Collective (Also good for a faster rumba)
  • Faded - ZHU
  • Parachute - Cheryl

 

Bachata

That segues nicely into bachata, which is a style of dance I fell in love with as soon as I started learning it.  This is a style that supports a whole bunch of cool modern songs, as well as a lot of traditional stuff. My preference is to explore bachata with modern music and to leave the traditional stuff alone!

Damaged, Fallin', and Girls Like You all track pretty clearly as normal speed bachata songs.  Señorita was a team favourite when it was released. 

Memories and Never Ever are much slower songs, which I find super-interesting to bachata to; like a smooth bachata, and I love playing with that.  You can do more breaks, shapes, and isolations with slower songs, as well as being able to double-time when you want for punctuation and musical effect!  They are also great for rumba :v)

And Mis Deseos / Feliz Navidad is one of my favourite Christmas songs, and is a great Christmas Bachata(TM)... 

  • Damaged - Danity Kane
  • Fallin' - Jessica Mauboy
  • Girls Like You - Maroon 5
  • I Like - Keri Hilson
  • Memories - Maroon 5
  • Mis Deseos / Feliz Navidad - Michael Buble, Thalia
  • Never Ever - Jessica Mauboy
  • Señorita- Shawn Mendes

 

Salsa

Like bachata, most of the salsa tracks I love are modern and not traditional. It's also a trend that I like songs which lend themselves to on-2 salsa, or could be danced just as readily as a samba (and I love samba!)

Gallery is one of the first salsa songs I loved and Miss Independent has also held a 'top spot' in my song list for a long time. Then some really cool smooth and dark salsa tracks like Filthy and Starboy give you an idea of the modern style of salsa you can enjoy! All U Need is a cool modern track which feels a little club-dance, but has a rad arabian vibe to it as well!

  • All U Need - Example (also a snappy samba!)
  • Filthy - Justin Timberlake
  • Gallery - Mario Vazquez
  • Hey DJ - CNCO, Meghan Trainor (a good Samba)
  • Miss Independent - Ne-Yo (love this for a samba also)
  • Señorita - Justin Timberlake
  • Sintra - Flume (this works as a slower, staccato-style samba)
  • Slow Hands - Niall Horan (also a great rumba)
  • Starboy - The Weekend
  • Wild Thoughts - DJ Khaled, Rihanna, Bryson Tiller

 

Samba

It makes sense now to flow into my much-loved samba list.  There are some tracks here which I just can't resist dancing to, which just pull you onto the dance floor and make you want to dance to them!  Samba is such a great dance, but really quite tricky and so I'm glad I'd danced for a few years before I started learning it.

I loved Kylie's new album which had a country feel to it, so Dancing was a great addition to the list.  Familiar and Mi Gente have just such drive to them they are infectious, both Shape of You and Sexual were great chart-tracks with catchy hooks and similarly infectious melodies.  Love on Top is a track I've loved for a long time - multiple key changes, strong vocals, plenty of opportunity to play with the musicality.

  • Dance Monkey - Tones and I (can also be a salsa)
  • Dancing - Kylie Minogue
  • Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say) - Lady Gaga
  • Familiar - Liam Payne, J Balvin
  • If I'm Lucky - Jason Derulo (I think you can also do a rumba)
  • Love On Top - Beyonce (can also be a salsa) (Check out Tamara's Routine)
  • Mi Gente - J Balvin, Willy William (try this as a salsa, or a merengue!)
  • Mil pasos - Soha (this is also a really good Argentine Tango)
  • Rockabye (ft. Sean Paul & Anne-Marie) - Clean Bandit, Sean Paul
  • Sexual - NEIKED, Dyo
  • Shape of You - Ed Sheeran

 

Merengue

Merengue is an important dance to learn because it's very versatile, and helps you get your head around continuity (as opposed to dancing one syllabus step after the other).  This is just a short list for a couple of extra merengue tracks.  La Mordidita is another song that I feel like it's just too hard to stay off the floor; a good candidate for the 'try not to dance to this song' challenge! Possibly Ricky Martin's best song.

  • I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho) - Pitbull
  • La Mordidita - Ricky Martin, Yotuel

 

Rock 'n Roll

Now this is a big section! It's fair to say that I really enjoy both rock 'n roll and swing tunes, and that part of the reason is the energy, and also the affinity I feel for the musicality - like I can play with the steps within the song and match what I'm leading to the music easily.

My earliest songs learning rock 'n roll include She Said, Things, and Brown Eyed Girl, and they've stayed with me!  Some of the songs in the list here which give me the greatest pleasure and joy are Are You Gonna Be My Girl, Fishies, Switch, Valerie, Runaround Sue and Magic.

Itte Kudes is a fun song, it's the Japanese version of Tell Him but I think it has more charm and fun to it.

  • Are You Gonna Be My Girl - Jet
  • Bright Side of the Road - Van Morrison
  • Coca Cola - Little Red
  • Dreaming of You - The Coral
  • Fishies - The Cat Empire
  • Itte Kudes - Alma Cogan
  • I Want You Back - The Jackson 5
  • Little Green Bag - George Baker Selection
  • Switch - Will Smith
  • The Lovecats - The Cure
  • Things - Robbie Williams, Jane Horrocks
  • Title - Meghan Trainor
  • Valerie (ft. Amy Winehouse) - Mark Ronson, Amy Winehouse

 

These rock 'n roll tracks can all support a swing or a jive danced to it as well, so they're versatile for tempo changes and playing depending on your mood:

  • Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison (also good for a foxtrot)
  • Everybody Talks - Neon Trees
  • Feel It Still - Portugal. The Man
  • Happy - Pharrell Williams
  • Magic (ft. Rivers Cuomo) - B.o.B, Rivers Cuomo
  • Reach - S Club 7
  • Rockin' Robin - Bobby Day
  • Runaround Sue - Dion
  • She Said - Plan B

 

Swing

So that leads us nicely into swing! Another big list...

When I'm choosing swing music I tend to move towards smoother music rather than the 'bobby' vertical music.  Swing is supposed to be danced smoothly, and horizontally, with the idea of a pendulum manifesting through your body movement.  

Songs in this group that stand out to me would be; Black & Gold, Ho Ho Ho, Little Turtle Dove, Hot N Cold, and I Can't Help Myself.  Playing with the dark and silence in bury a friend or Trampoline is an absolute joy and different to a lot of swing music out there.

  • Black & Gold - Sam Sparrow
  • Build Me Up, Buttercup - The Foundations
  • bury a friend - Billie Eilish
  • Dear Future Husband - Meghan Trainor
  • Ho Ho Ho - Sia
  • Hot N Cold - Katy Perry
  • I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) - Jessica Mauboy
  • I Kissed A Girl - Katy Perry
  • I'm Ready - AJR
  • I Wanna Know (ft. Bea Miller) - NOTD, Bea Miller
  • Jimmy - Tones and I
  • Little Turtle Dove - Bobby Day
  • Only the Good Die Young - Billy Joel
  • The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani, Akon
  • Trampoline (with ZAYN) - SHAED, ZAYN
  • Womanizer - Britney Spears

 

Foxtrot

Smooth foxtrot is a joy, a funky, sassy, cruisey dance where you can really play up to the music and the 'vibe' of what's going on.  This list is the cream-of-the-crop for me.  Back to Black, Beyond the Sea and Sexy Silk are absolute standouts, and Hi-Tone Fandango is a love pulled from a video game called Grim Fandango which has an amazing soundtrack as well as being an excellent game in its own right.

  • Back To Black - Amy Winehouse
  • Beyond the Sea - Bobby Darin
  • Hi-Tone Fandango - Peter McConnell
  • Modern World - Dennis van Aarssen
  • Please Don't Tease - Club des Belugas
  • Sexy Silk - Jesse J (Also check out Charlene's routine)

 

Waltz

Moving into the fluidic, floating waltz now.  Be Good is a song I found a while back, but it's over 6-minutes long so it's not one we play a lot, but it's a great waltz!  Close Every Door To Me is somewhat of an obsession for me; I love it.  Edelweiss and Vanishing are two waltz tracks which I've loved for a very long time, although people do find it hard to pick the timing in them sometimes, I still love them dearly.

  • Be Good (Lion's Song) - Gregory Porter
  • Close Every Door To Me - Andrew Lloyd Webber
  • Edelweiss - Bill Lee
  • It Is You (I Have Loved) - Dana Glover
  • Open Arms - Journey
  • Vanishing - Mariah Carey

 

Viennese Waltz

A lot of the songs I love for Viennese really need about 5-10% shaved off their tempo, and so I've left them off the list.  And When I Die was a showcase song for for a Viennese/Paso which I loved doing, 1+1 is another powerful Beyonce track which I find hard to resist, and the other two songs are just really nice tunes to take to the floor with - Lucky is taken from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer soundtrack!

 

Tango

The drama and sharp lines of tango are one of my earliest loves in dancing.  I also love the versatility of the style and how accomodating the music is to many styles in addition to a tango.

I did a routine many years ago (before my time at QuickSteps) to a blended track of Little Drop of Poison/Bad Things which was tango/swing/cha cha!  Santa Maria was one of the first tango tracks about 15 years ago. A Beautiful Mine is from Mad Men the TV show.

Less traditional tango tracks like Circus, Paparazzi, and Natural have really come to the top of my 'must dance to' mind recently, and I've been cultivating a list specifically of 'modern' songs which are great for tango.

  • A Beautiful Mine - RJD2
  • Bad Things - Jace Everett (great for swing)
  • Circus - Britney Spears
  • Little Drop of Poison - Tom Waits
  • Natural - Imagine Dragons
  • Otherwise - Morcheeba (this one's a bit faster :) 
  • Paparazzi - Lady Gaga
  • Por Cima - Flavia Coelho
  • Santa Maria (Del Buen Ayre) - Gotan Project

 

Argentine Tango

Argentine tango is incredibly versatile, and so you can kinda dance it to anything you like if you feel inclined.  Derecho is a Spotify-suggestion which is pure gold as a modern track that is so cool and atmospheric, The Last of Us is the theme of the multi-award winning video game of the same title.

  • Derecho - Nym
  • Derniere danse - Indila (is also a nice rumba)
  • The Last of Us - Gustavo Santaolalla

 

Bonus!  Songs with changing styles...

These songs all have clear style-changes in them. I love the challenge of leading one style into another and anticipating the musical changes.  When there is an opportunity to dance two, or three, styles within a single song then I'm there!

  • Hush Hush; Hush Hush - The Pussycat Dolls

This song starts as a rumba, bursts into a cha cha, has a little rumba break in the middle, and can even support you doing a bit of cheeky bachata if you like.  For me it's just nice to have the contrast of rumba and cha cha so clear and enjoyable.

  • Youngblood - 5 Seconds of Summer

Another really clear rumba start which moves into swing, and I also like for a bit of bachata flavour if you're keen for it.  

  • bad guy - Billie Eilish

This is a dark swing track, which changes completely at the end into an Argentine tango.  It's a complete switch which favours a dramatic highlight for the transition.

  • Raise Your Weapon - deadmau5

This marathon track is all Argentine tango, and then moves into some of the fastest cha cha you'll attempt.  I was able to do a wonderful routine with a heavily edited version, in 2018.  Check out the video here.

  • Wave (ft. Mike Sabath) - Meghan Trainor

This song is a recent addition and it's so good!  It starts with a bolero (or play with slow bachata moves), and then becomes one of the most fantastic swing tracks I've heard in a long time.  It also features some great slow bachata breaks that you can just melt into and make the most of.  Must dance, must play with it.

 

Last Mention - Bolero

I cannot mention my top list of songs without mentioning this track.  Hurt was a showcase song that was in my head for around 7-8 years.  When the opportunity came I took it, and the execution was all I hoped for.  I was humbled by the emotional response from people who were there, and it was an emotional experience to tick something huge off my list and impact others in the process.

 

Playlist

Pfew!  Well done for making it all the way down here... now here's the playlist so you can listen, and assess it for yourselves!

Let me know what you think :)

Ciao!  Ben

 

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